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How do CEOs communicate on Twitter? A comparative study between Fortune 200 companies and top startup companies

Cen April Yue (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Patrick Thelen (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Katy Robinson (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Linjuan Rita Men (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 17 July 2019

Issue publication date: 31 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to compare Fortune 200 and top startup chief executive officers’ (CEOs) communication strategies on Twitter and the effectiveness of these strategies in influencing public engagement. Specifically, guided by the dialogic communication theory and social presence theory, this study explored CEOs’ use of dialogic communication, social presence strategies and message tactics. Additionally, public engagement on Twitter measured by total number of likes, retweets and comments was associated with communication strategies utilized by CEOs.


This study employed the quantitative content analysis. A total sample of 720 posts from 36 CEOs were selected and analyzed. Drawing from prior studies, a coding scheme was developed and employed during the coding process. Two authors of this study served as coders and reached satisfactory inter-coder reliability. A series of χ2 tests and negative binomial regressions were conducted for data analysis.


Neither Fortune 200 CEOs nor top startup CEOs fully utilized dialogic principles for Twitter communication. Although Fortune CEOs seemed to be experts in strategically tailoring messages and therefore present themselves on Twitter in a friendly manner, startup CEOs demonstrated a higher level of authenticity, animation and informality. Findings are mixed regarding the direction of associations between dialogic principles and public engagement.


This study expands the application of dialogic principles in examining online executive communication and its influence in public engagement on Twitter. This study was among the first that examined executive leadership communication in the context of social media setting. In this sense, the study shifted the internal focus of leadership research to investigating leaders’ interaction with a variety of online publics.



Yue, C.A., Thelen, P., Robinson, K. and Men, L.R. (2019), "How do CEOs communicate on Twitter? A comparative study between Fortune 200 companies and top startup companies", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 532-552.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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